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How the agile methodology made me more flexible

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Katha Kloss

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News from Home

We’re launching a series of informal articles written by Cafébabel staff to explain the changes the magazine is going through. Most importantly: a new editorial line, new sections, new plans, new faces... in short, it's a whole new world!

It all began one morning in a Parisian bistro. Our web developers from Scopyleft had just projected a short presentation on the agile methodology while we enjoyed some pain au chocolat and freshly squeezed orange juice. It was an ideal way for us to digest the concept of agile software development, a method we would be using to create Cafébabel’s new website.

The slideshow was pretty athletic. It was all about sprints, and the slides they presented had rugby players in chaotic scrums. The new Cafébabel was to emerge from this kind of agility. For me, it was a nightmare. I’m used to traditional project management where you write a very detailed working plan, set deadlines for the team and stick to them - come what may.

You’ve probably already guessed as much, but the agile method makes one more… agile. There are no intimidating and utopic deadlines looming over your head, because this doesn’t make sense in the world of software development. Instead, the agile method means you set smaller milestones, called sprints, to reach your final goal. My colleague and graphic designer Johan suddenly became PO (project owner), a position that is kind of a stress buffer between editorial requests (I still want an interactive multimedia tool, oversized photos, pull quotes and GIFs of all the editors bouncing around the pitch page) and realistic development (uh, no, that’s not a priority for the users). At least once a day, the PO had a Skype meeting called a ‘daily’ with the developers in Bordeaux or Barcelona, our very own digital nomads.

The agile method can also drive you crazy; especially when boundaries become so blurred you don’t know what is part of the agile method and what is part of the daily life of a digital nomad. Suddenly @pntbr writes on Slack: “Just got to the airport in Lyon. Skype in 15 minutes?” My French colleague Saf had mistaken him for a bot and insulted him. Even the official launch date of the website becomes agile. Sometimes we don’t sprint fast enough to get to the finish line, but that’s the case in all sports. That’s why there is always a need for adaptability and, above all, a lot of feedback and sympathy. Like when @pntbr occasionally stops by our newsroom for a week and provides the team with cakes, chai tea and kombucha.

The fact of the matter is we all ended up here: @katha joined #preprod-cafebabel-com and was invited by @pntbr along with 7 other team members in the middle of the test phase. On GitHub, we discuss the latest issues. And soon, our brand new website will finally be launched. That, my friends, is the agile methodology.  

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Translated from Wie mich die agile Methode agiler gemacht hat